Austin clinic reports more area women are freezing their eggs

The Texas Fertility Center treats infertility in a variety of ways, from injections to more complicated procedures. The clinic has also seen an increase in women freezing their eggs.

The Texas Fertility Center treats infertility in a variety of ways, from injections to more complicated procedures. The clinic has also seen an increase in women freezing their eggs.

Although the Texas Fertility Center is seeing an increase in women freezing their eggs, the clinic reports patients still struggle to receive health insurance coverage for infertility treatment.

Egg freezing preserves reproductive potential by harvesting eggs from ovaries to be frozen for future use. If a patient elects to use her frozen eggs, the eggs will be thawed, combined with sperm in a lab and then implanted into the uterus, which is called in-vitro fertilization.

The clinic recommends young women who score poorly on their Ovarian Reserve Assessment—a fertility blood test—to freeze their eggs; that way they have alternative options if they find themselves infertile when they are ready to have children.

So far 53 women in 2017 have frozen their eggs at the clinic. Last year, 62 women froze their eggs, a significant jump from 14 women in 2011. The clinic has also seen an increase in interest in its egg-freezing seminars and in women getting an assessment.

“Our egg-freezing seminars are exploding because word is getting out that women can preserve their eggs and their fertility and be able to have a reasonable chance for pregnancy later in life,” fertility specialist Dr. Kaylen Silverberg said.

Infertility stigmatized less today 

Silverberg said the clinic attributes many factors to the increase in egg freezing, including that the American Medical Association listed infertility as a disease in June. The normalization of the disease helps women feel more comfortable to take preventive action, he said.

It has also become a trend to wait to have children, he said. More women in their 30s are having babies than women in their 20s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But Silverberg said society really began to normalize infertility when celebrities became more vocal about their own infertility.

“When the media starts covering it, all of the sudden people start feeling more comfortable talking about it,” he said.

When Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg publicly announced the company would provide egg-freezing insurance, other tech companies, such as Apple Inc., followed suit, Silverberg said. Several Austin tech companies pioneering the trend include IBM Corp., National Instruments Corp. and Dell Inc.

Texas Fertility Center In-vitro fertilization is one of several ways the clinic treats infertility.[/caption]

Insurance options remain limited

Silverberg said despite progress made societally about infertility treatment, insurance companies and employers still limit health insurance coverage.

In the U.S., 15 states require some type of coverage for infertility costs, Silverberg said. Seven states require the coverage and eight—including Texas—require insurance companies at least offer coverage to employers.

Austin resident Sarah Kuykendall got an assessment in 2014 after experiencing multiple miscarriages. The test showed she had an irregularly low number of eggs and helped her make the decision to try in-vitro fertilization to get pregnant.

Kuykendall’s insurance did not cover her treatment, so she paid out of pocket for the procedure, which costs at minimum $9,000. She said she recognizes other infertile couples do not have that option, however.

“There are a lot of families who can’t pay out of pocket,” she said. “If insurance companies could even cover some of the costs, it would be such a relief.”

Silverberg said the lack of health insurance coverage is inequitable for his patients, whose monthly premiums insure other employees’ disease treatment but not their own.

“My patients don’t have babies, yet their health insurance goes to paying for pediatric visits for their fellow co-workers who have kids,” he said.

He suggests patients contact their company’s human resources director, insurance providers and the Texas Department of Insurance to express need for infertility treatment coverage.

“We’re trying to tell women, ‘You’ve done such a good job taking charge of your lives. Take charge of your fertility, too,’” he said.